theology

Who Sinned That He Doesn’t Have Health Care?

It’s a classic story on the Sunday school circuit: Jesus and his disciples are walking one day and see a man begging on the side of the road, a man who had been born blind. The disciples take this opportunity to ask Jesus a gossipy question, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

721fd2cefe8e9dd2d264dc8a2ea3f155The question betrays a common belief at the time, namely that sickness was the result of sin. If someone had a debilitating disease of some kind, someone had to be responsible for it. Maybe his parents had done something which caused the blindness. Maybe the man himself had sinned in some way, bringing on the ailment.

Either way, the man was sick and it was his or his family’s fault.

When we read this now, we probably think, “Aren’t Jesus’ disciples so quaint?” We look back with bemusement that people would think that someone’s health was directly tied to their character. Do the right thing and be healthy. Do the wrong thing and be sick. We know now that it’s just not that straightforward and simple.

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Recently, Congressman Jason Chaffetz suggested that people who cannot afford health insurance under the proposed plan that repeals and replaces the Affordable Care Act will have to make a choice between buying health insurance and buying a new iPhone. It was a regrettable comment for a number of reasons, and Chaffetz has subsequently tried to walk it back.

However, Chaffetz’s comment betrays a common belief of our time, namely that poor people can’t afford health insurance because they have sinned. Being poor is a sin. Whether they would say it outright or not, many believe that people are poor because they lack discipline, they are lazy, or they don’t have enough faith. Sin is the cause.

In the politicized evangelical world, it is not uncommon to hear people who receive government assistance disparaged, “The Bible clearly say, ‘If you don’t work, you don’t eat.’” Obviously, someone who would be so foolish as to buy a new iPhone rather than health insurance has sinful priorities or some kind of character deficiency.

Who sinned that you don’t have health care? It’s either your fault or your family’s.

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Getting back to the biblical story about the man born blind, Jesus completely rejects the premise of the disciples’ question. His answer is unequivocal – neither are to blame. And then, Jesus, rather dramatically, covers the man’s eyes in mud made from his own spit and sends him off to wash it clean and be healed from his blindness.

There are two significant things we can learn from the example of Jesus in this story.

First, we need to stop blaming poor people who can’t afford health care. 

Sure, there are unquestionably people who are lazy and undisciplined. However, poverty in America is far more complicated an issue. Generational poverty, income inequality, rural underdevelopment, and lack of access to education and opportunity are all much more likely reasons for someone to be unable to pay health insurance premiums. Not being able to afford health care is not a sin problem. Jesus didn’t judge people needing health care, and so neither should we.

Second, if Jesus took responsibility for other people’s health care, then so should we. 

Jesus didn’t just see people in need and pass them by. Over and over again, the Bible tells us stories of how he did what he could to help, which often meant miraculous healing (which isn’t going to be an option for us). But many evangelicals I know tend to shirk taking responsibility for others, emphasizing instead the notion of “personal responsibility.” And yet the example of Jesus – a willingness to take responsibility for other people’s health care – might very well mean that we prioritize people’s health care over lower taxes.

Far from being a cute Sunday school story, maybe this story has one deeply relevant and radical message. Evangelical Christians need to take their cues not from political leaders but from Jesus.

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Your Church Is Probably Lying to You

In a recent speech, Donald Trump was distracted by a baby crying somewhere in the crowd. As a pastor who has experienced firsthand what it’s like to have your train of thought jump the tracks because you hear a crying infant, I immediately sympathized with him.

I even appreciated how he handled the situation.

“Don’t worry about that baby; I love babies … I hear that baby crying; I like it.” Trump said. “What a baby, what a beautiful baby. Don’t worry … Don’t worry about it.”

Imagine the baby’s mother in the back of the room. She knows her child is being a distraction to people. She’s desperately trying to keep him quiet. She wants to make sure her child is comforted, and she wants to be considerate of others. Read More…

3 Biblical Reasons Why Christians in Fayetteville Should Vote For the Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance – Even If They Believe Homosexuality Is a Sin

For the second time in as many years, Fayetteville is being torn apart by a civil rights ordinance that codifies protections for LGBTQ people. If passed, the ordinance will allow for LGBTQ people to be guaranteed the same rights and services that any Fayetteville resident enjoys without fear of discrimination. A landlord will not be able to refuse to rent to a man simply because he’s gay. A trans woman won’t be able to be fired from her job simply because of her gender identity. A lesbian couple will be able to buy a wedding cake from any bakery that serves the public. Read More…

Episode 1: Tickle and Women and Mark, oh my

Robb and Vanessa kickoff the new Fundamorphosis podcast by talking about Phyllis Tickle and feminism, interviewing Mark Scandrette, and answering listeners’ questions.

Formative: Biblical Theological Seminary

At my Bible college, all the senior guys had to take and pass an oral theology exam to be able to graduate. For a variety of reasons, I was asked to take mine publicly – anyone could come and watch and get a sense of what the oral exam would be like. As a thank you, I guess, for taking my orals this way, the Bible department of the college took my friend Aaron and I along with them when they went to a regional gathering of the Evangelical Theological Society at Valley Forge Christian College.   Read More…

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